Series Thus Far... the Finishing School Books!

Sunday, 20 July 2014
Series Thus Far... is going to be a new feature on Booktastic Reviews, where I'll either be reviewing more than one book in a series or generally just talking about what I think of the series as a whole thus far. The first books I'll be focusing on today are instalments #1 and #2 of the Finishing School series (which will have four instalments in total, although the third is not out yet).

Etiquette & Espionage
Author: Gail Carriger
Edition: Atom Paperback
Released: 5th February 2013
Series: Finishing School #1
Pages: 312 approx.
Links: Goodreads | Author's Website | Buy the book!

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school.

Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners, and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's young ladies learn to finish . . . everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage - in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.

I'd had my eye on this book for a while before I finally managed to get my hands on a copy. It sounded like a really fun and entertaining read and when I spotted it amongst the free books at YALC, I swooped it up. And I cannot tell you how thankful I am that I did, I ended up adoring it.

I've pretty much come to realise that if a book involves characters in Victorian style dresses, I'm pretty much sold. I don't know why, but I love this era. Not to mention the fact that this book is steampunk so is doubly intriguing! Girls in big dresses handling technology? Uh, how can that not be entertaining?! Admittedly, it didn't have the most solid/interesting main plot line - and it was sometimes confusing - but I ended up being hooked in anyway - by the world and the characters. I became pretty attached to Sophronia, Dimity and Pillover in particular. Our MC, Sophronia, is a crafty, curious and smart girl who is definitely fun to follow!

Overall, I rather adored this book. As soon as I finished, I bought the sequel from the Kindle store - I just needed it in my life that badly. I'm not going to give this it's own rating because I feel this is one of those series that you love as a whole, more than each instalment on its own. You think of it more as one huge story. Well, I do anyway. ;P

Curtsies & Conspiracies
Author: Gail Carriger
Edition: Atom eBook
Released: 7th November 2013
Series: Finishing School #2
Pages: 399 approx.
Links: Goodreads | Author's Website | Buy the book!

No spoilers present in following synopsis or review! :)

Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?

Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy (won't Mumsy be surprised?). Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot--one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

Again, another delightful instalment that was SO entertaining and fun to read! I am thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly enjoying this series! ADORING it, in fact. Do you know those series that, yes, it has it's flaws, but is just so much fun to read and you can't help but love it so much? Yeah, this is one of those series for me!

Okay, I need to admit something. I think I've fallen in love with one of the characters in this book. Yes, another one, I know, but seriously, he's so... *swoons*. His name is Lord Felix Mersey. So, obviously, I can't help but ship him and Sophronia. Unfortunately, I think there could be a hint of a love triangle forming. And you know me. I'm always very much one-sided with these things. I just get so invested and so emotional about it. *facepalm* But I love all the feels I feel over them. SOPHRONIA, FELIX IS PERFECT FOR YOU, OKAY?!

Ack, I just can't express enough how much I'm loving this series and am invested with my ship. Sure, it's not perfect and it's sometimes confusing and hard to follow, but I adore it all the same. The characters are likeable and fun and... GAH, just read it, K?! Can't believe I have to wait until November for the next instalment. *cries*

This Series Thus Far gets...


Happy Reading,
Rachel xoxo

PS: I don't know if my thoughts made sense but I'm just adoring this a lot. Okay? Also, do you like the sound of this feature? ;P


YALC and all the things...

Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Okay, so that weekend was just crazy.

Time to write down my thoughts.

Overall, I rather adored YALC.

I also really adored the venue, believe it or not. I really got caught up in the atmosphere of London Film and Comic Con and it really inspired and brought front the passion inside of me. There were just so many people at it displaying their passion for comics, movies and books so proudly and without shame that I couldn't help but feel in my element in the big hall (even with the sweltering heat on Saturday). I was surprised at how much I actually ended up loving the feel about the place. I expected to feel crushed and claustrophobic, but I actually came to feel safer lost within the huge - and I mean, HUGE - crowd of fangirls and boys.

A few people have said how they think YALC would benefit from being held separately to LFCC but, for now, I think LFCC is a great place to have it. Though I wouldn't mind a whole load more publishing booths and (hopefully) a chance for bloggers to get involved in the future, I think for a convention just debuting for the first time, it was FANTASTIC. I can only hope they bring it back next year. And the year after. And the year after... I have no doubt if this does become an annual occurrence, it will just keep getting bigger and better.

The only problems I had with YALC were due to ME. I loved the event itself and the thought behind the panels and the signings, but I got SO frustrated with myself. I have never felt so awkward or shy in my life. Though I can admit I'm shy at times, I'm usually pretty good when it comes to meeting people. This might be because my mum's a teacher and I've grown up watching her approach people and talk to them with confidence and ease, but you seriously wouldn't know that about me if you talked to me at YALC. The only reason I'm so frustrated with myself is that I don't feel I truly came across as me, just an awkward, shy blah-blah head.

I'm not sure if this is because I barely knew about the many, MANY bloggers going and the lack of forward planning, but I was so shy when it came to approaching bloggers. And that surprised me. I thought I'd be much more confident. I just feel I missed out on the opportunity to meet so many amazing people and give them a glimpse of the real me. I don't think we need to go into the part where I'm a blah-blah head again.

The bloggers I did talk to were lovely though. So I really hope I meet them again in the future and be more me! I hope I didn't paint too bad a picture of myself. :3

ANYWAY. The haul. I'm not going to show you all the swag I got because it would take SUCH a long time - especially since I have a truck full *eyeballs the three people responsible for this truck load ;P* - but I will show you the books! I managed to get my hands on ten, two of which were free, four of which I got signed and three which I've already read since YALC.

I'm so excited about ALL of these. (And, yes, I realise the smudge on my lens). The four I got signed are Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (she said she liked the clockwork angel necklace I was wearing, highlight of my day!), Trouble by Non Pratt and Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon. The three I've read are Trouble - so good! - Take Back the Skies - even better! - and Deep Blue - which was fantastic!

If you went to YALC, what did you think? If you didn't, do you think it would've been something you'd like? Read any of the books I picked up? What did you think?

Happy Reading,
Rachel xoxo

Review: Half a King

Sunday, 6 July 2014
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Edition: HarperCollins Voyager ARC
Released: 3rd July 2014
Series: Shattered Sea #1
Pages: 373 approx.
Links: Goodreads | Author's Website | Buy the book!

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy...

For a while now, I've been trying to get into fantasy. Of late, the genre has been the most captivating to me. Whether this is due to all the promising YA fantasy books coming out later this year or the fact I've moved away from my previous favoured genre - dystopian - and am in search of a new one, I'm not sure. All I know is that when I got an email through requesting I review this book, I jumped at the chance, surprising myself in the process. It's definitely not something I'd usually go for! But something enticed me to it and, now that I've read it, I'm rather excited to share my thoughts. Although, admittedly, I didn't love it and I did have quite a few hiccups with Half a King, I enjoyed it enough that I'll be venturing into the genre more.

First off, the world. As it has been with myself and fantasy worlds in the past, I found the world hard to visualise and wrap my head around. Even with the description, I struggled a bit and came away from the story feeling like I didn't understand some of the small details that gave the world structure. However, I do put this down to my inexperience of world building in fantasy books. I believe I'll be able to wrap my head around fantasy worlds the more I delve into the genre. Saying that, I did still feel enveloped by the world - and I love the feeling that comes with being completely transported into a different and much more exciting world.

The main character, Yarvi, ended up being a character I rooted for. Though he isn't the best protagonist, his flaws made me invested in his character development - I wanted to watch this boy grow and become more comfortable in his own skin. There was an array of varying characters, each very different in personality and adding a new dynamic to the little group of "outcasts" and I enjoyed the relationships that formed between them all. Some were comical, others were heart-warming. I particularly enjoyed the Yarvi/Sumael relationship arc - it was both realistic and intriguing at the same time.

The writing in this book was not without its issues for me. To start with, I found the beginning a little slow. I was quite a few chapters into the book before I felt the plot line really take off. I also found that some of the structure and wording of sentences just didn't... flow. I found myself wanting to insert commas here and there and having to reread sentences until they made sense. Although this could be due to my format being an ARC - meaning final touches were still being done to the book after I received a copy. I also read this book as a standalone - I had no idea it was going to be a trilogy - so, when I got to the ending, I wasn't satisfied. I decided I would have preferred a different ending. BUT, now that I know it's a series, I can pretty much dismiss those feelings. However, if there's one thing I can't fault Abercrombie on, it's his plot twists. They were pretty darn phenomenal.

In conclusion, Half a King was not without its flaws for me but I still enjoyed it. With a character you can root for and some astounding plot twists, it's a great glimpse into the fantasy genre. I know now that I want to read some more fantasy books. I'm unsure about whether or not I'm going to continue with this series, only time will tell. I do think this is the perfect read for lovers of fantasy already though!
Huge thanks to HarperCollins for my review copy! :)
Happy Reading,
Rachel xoxo

My Experience With The Mortal Instruments...

Friday, 4 July 2014
Recently, what with my reading (and finishing) the last book in the TMI series, I started to reflect back on what I'd thought about all the other books and, in doing so, the series as a whole. It's no secret I prefer The Infernal Devices to The Mortal Instruments, but that does not mean I disliked TMI. I love the Shadowhunter world and anything to do with it, it just so happens I didn't quite connect to TMI like I did TID.

I read the first installment in The Mortal Instruments over two years ago and absolutely loved it. It was the first Shadowhunter novel I ever read and I fell in love with the premise and the world Clare had created. As soon as I'd returned it to the school library, I took out the sequel. But then something funny happened. I started it, went a couple chapters in... and stopped. I ended up returning it to the library.

If you're a die-hard TMI fan, you may be like:

To which my reply is:

I don't fully know why I put City of Ashes down, only that I returned to it about a year later after having read and loved the entire TID trilogy. The second time around I enjoyed it enough to pick up City of Glass, which I ended up really enjoying first time through.

Of course, now that I was half way through this six-part series, I decided I might as well just finish it. Though I didn't feel that invested (to my eyes, it paled in comparison to TID) and Clary was starting to get on my nerves, I was rather infatuated with the Shadowhunter world. I also didn't know where else Clare could take the plot after the seemingly resolved ending and it intrigued me.

My experience with the next book wasn't good at all. I found City of Fallen Angels SO slow, to the point I almost put it down every few pages.

But I shouldered on and continued with the series. City of Lost Souls picked up but I still just wasn't fully feeling it. I started questioning whether or not I should have continued after CoG.

But, for whatever reason, I was really excited to pick up City of Heavenly Fire after it's release. To say I'm confused with my own feelings toward this series is an understatement. And to confuse myself even further, I ended up really loving it. It made my struggles with the previous books seem worth it.

Now my goodreads ratings look like this:

City of Bones - 5 stars
City of Ashes - ? [I couldn't put my feelings toward it into a rating]
City of Glass - 4 stars
City of Fallen Angels - 2 stars
City of Lost Souls - 3 stars
City of Heavenly Fire - 5 stars

My overall average being 3.8 stars.

Overall, I'd say I enjoyed the TMI series. If I can say one thing for certain, however, it's that I LOVE the Shadowhunter world. It's definitely one of my most favourite fictional worlds of all time.

Now that I look back on this post, I don't really see where I was going with it or whether it had a point. I guess I just had to share my feelings toward the series as I hadn't reviewed most of the books and I'm just really curious as to what others think. So...

What has YOUR experience with TMI been like? Did you love it? Or not so much? Which series do you prefer? TMI or TID?

Happy Reading,
Rachel xoxo